Body & Soul

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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Sep 29, 1993 - Fiction - 450 pages
3 Reviews

As a boy, Claude Rawlings looks up through the grated window of his basement apartment to watch the world go by. Poor, lonely, supported by a taxi-driver mother whose eccentricities spin more and more out of control, he faces the terrible task of growing up on the margins of life, destined to be a spectator of that great world always hurrying out of reach. But there is an out-of-tune piano in the small apartment, and in unlocking the secrets of its keys, as if by magic, Claude discovers himself. He is a musical prodigy.

Body & Soul is the story of a young man whose life is transformed by a gift. The gift is not without price — the work is relentless, the teachers exacting — but the reward is a journey that takes him to the drawing rooms of the rich and powerful, private schools, a gilt-edged marriage, and Carnegie Hall. Claude moves through this life as if he were playing a difficult composition, swept up in its drama and tension, surprised by its grace notes. Music, here, becomes a character in its own right, equaled in strength only by the music of Frank Conroy's own unmistakable and true voice.

Bristling with character and invention, Body & Soul is Dickensian in its range and richness. This is a novel with all the emotional appeal and moral gravity of a classic bildungsroman, but with a tone as contemporary as a jazz riff—an unforgettable achievement by one of the great writers of our time.


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Review: Body and Soul

User Review  - Goodreads

Reviewed on (and can be viewed on goodreads under my page). A wonderful book about a musician, about America in the mid-twentieth century, about resilience. For music lovers, lovers of musicians, and book lovers. Read full review

Review: Body and Soul

User Review  - Goodreads

I really liked this book - in fact I read it until 4:00 in the morning. The author was head of the Iowa City Writer's workshop. It's fascinating I think to anyone who likes music and not just someone ... Read full review

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About the author (1993)

FRANK CONROY is the director of the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist.

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